Being a Tall Poppy, and the Heroine of My Life

“Life-threatening is the ultimate in empowering”, I have heard.

It certainly worked for me. Growing up, teachers observed my lack of self-confidence and recorded their thoughts in my school reports. The reports included words to the effect of “Leigh is bright, works hard, and produces consistently good work. I wish she would put herself forward more, come out of her shell.”

I’m now well and truly out of my shell. Empowered. Confident.

My increased self-confidence was evolutionary to an extent. It developed over time, and with life experience. Increased self-confidence has come with being comfortable with who I am, what I look like, and caring less about what other people think.

That new-found confidence received a huge boost as a result of a life-threatening illness, and Hugo’s death. “What else could hurt me?” I thought. The worst had already happened. That is not to say I am completely devoid of feelings, of course.

But I am changed so utterly, completely, and in so many ways by those events of February and March 2014.

I have been writing about those feelings in this blog, giving talks to healthcare professionals, badgering people on Twitter, become an action lead for the #MatExp campaign. Incredible things that I could not have dreamed of doing about eighteen months ago.

Sometimes I have been fuelled by anger at the unfairness of the world. But my passion has been motivated by the desire for Hugo’s all-too-short life to have been worth something. For improvements to be made in his memory.

While my confidence was better than it had been during my school days, before Hugo died I did not realise or acknowledge that my voice is valid, worth expressing, with views to be valued by others.

I realise now I am a tall poppy. I have the confidence to say that, to be that, to be proud of it.

I am vulnerable and fragile, like a flower in a meadow. Yet I am also strong, reaching out to others, collaborating, trying to teach kindness and compassion.

Working on Hugo’s Legacy. Making a difference to other families in Hugo’s memory.

A member of our #MatExp group made this beautiful image about tall poppies.


I also saw this quote yesterday, from the late, great Nora Ephron (screenwriter of classic films such as Silkwood and When Harry Met Sally).

Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.

My life is fraught with challenges. Legacies of my illness, and Hugo’s death. Anxiety, flashbacks, panic attacks sometimes. A deep, dark abyss of sadness. Sadness at what cannot be unchanged, and what can never be. Missing my son so very much.

But my life includes joy, too. I want people to empathise with me, but never feel sorry for or pity me. I have suffered, I suffer still, I will continue to suffer in some way for the rest of my life.

But I am not a victim.

I am the heroine of my life.

[Better make sure I have the ‘e’ on the end of ‘heroine,’ considering the connection with poppies. But anyway…]

A couple of weeks ago I approached some brands, and they were kind enough to send me some things. My other half, Martin is a photographer and this morning he took some photos of me for the posts I need to write about them.

The look in my eyes says it all. Staring down the lens of the camera.

There is strength behind those eyes.



My voice matters, and so does yours.

You should not have to endure a life-threatening experience to feel empowered, confident, to know that life is not to be wasted, to take advantage of opportunities to fulfil your potential.

So off you go, use that voice. If you are lacking in confidence, find ways to build it up.

Make a difference to your life. Make a difference to others’ lives.

Be a tall poppy, and the hero(ine) of your own life.



19 Comments on Being a Tall Poppy, and the Heroine of My Life

  1. sophieblovett
    May 25, 2015 at 9:57 pm (5 years ago)

    Such a fantastic post, and so inspiring. It is pretty amazing how you’ve taken these awful experiences life has thrown at you and used them as fuel to come out fighting, doing so much good for others in the process. I love the tall poppies illustration – a really important reminder of why we’re here. And that’s an awesome quote too. Thank you so much for sharing xx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 26, 2015 at 8:18 am (5 years ago)

      Thank you Sophie. The tall poppies illustration is fab isn’t it? Oh and the heroine quote really spoke to me – resilience is so very important. Thanks for commenting xxx

  2. Sara (@mumturnedmom)
    May 25, 2015 at 6:34 pm (5 years ago)

    This actually brought tears to my eyes, such an inspiring piece of writing. And, that quote is fabulous, I’m going to pin it up somewhere for those days where I am feeling anything but the heroine. Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 26, 2015 at 8:18 am (5 years ago)

      Oh bless you Sara, thank you. Isn’t that quote amazing? So simple, yet says so much xxx

  3. johannewinwood
    May 22, 2015 at 1:41 pm (5 years ago)

    That is such an inspiring quote Leigh. I think I’m inclined to be the victim of my life but will now strive to be the heroine!

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 23, 2015 at 7:56 am (5 years ago)

      Oh bless you. Best wishes, thanks for commenting xxx

  4. Tim
    May 22, 2015 at 9:08 am (5 years ago)

    Fantastic quote, fantastic post, fantastic attitude. It’s a shame it took an event so tragic to unlock what you’ve become over the past year and a bit, but it’s great that it has allowed you to blossom and move forward. If there’s one character trait I don’t want my own kids to inherit from me, it’s my lack of self-confidence and the constant self-doubt that I find sometimes paralyses me in social situations and has certainly stopped me from achieving – or at the very least trying to achieve – as much in certain areas of my life as I might have done.

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 23, 2015 at 1:09 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks Tim. A lack of self-confidence is something so many of us share, unfortunately, and it’s a shame it prevents us doing things. I guess we need a more American ‘can do’ and ‘I am awesome’ attitude – without being brash or arrogant. And yes, no one should have to experience what I have to gain self-confidence – we need to find a way to believe in ourselves without that. Thanks for commenting x

  5. maddy@writingbubble
    May 22, 2015 at 8:41 am (5 years ago)

    Wonderful, empowering post Leigh. Your confidence is inspiring and what you have achieved in Hugo’s name is amazing. You are absolutely the heroine in your own life (fab quote) and confidence jumps out of that photo – every bit the tall poppy. xx #theprompt

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 23, 2015 at 7:56 am (5 years ago)

      Thank you so much Maddy, that’s such a kind comment xxx

  6. mummyshambles
    May 22, 2015 at 6:17 am (5 years ago)

    The poppy is my favourite flower. I have pictures all over the house of poppies because, to me, poppies are also about remembrance. I look at a poppy and I think of all the brave people who died for me and I feel humbled..
    “But my passion has been motivated by the desire for Hugo’s all-too-short life to have been worth something. For improvements to be made in his memory.”
    The fact that you are trying to make things better, despite your personal grief, is a testament to your strength, Leigh..
    The poppy may be delicate but it’s effect on people is long lasting. X

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 22, 2015 at 8:39 am (5 years ago)

      Do you know, I’d completely forgotten about the significance of the poppy being a remembrance flower. In the unit where Hugo was cared for there was a private room where doctors would take you to give you an update on your baby’s condition. In Hugo’s case it was usually bad news. Behind where the doctor would sit was a beautiful painting of a poppy field, but I was unable to really appreciate its beauty – it just made me think of death.

      It’s lovely you have poppies all over the house. They are very special flowers. Thank you for your comment, and continuous support, lovely xxx

  7. Julia @ Rainbeaubelle
    May 21, 2015 at 8:41 pm (5 years ago)

    I love this! Love the concept of being a tall poppy, you certainly are one of those. It’s funny how the worst thing imaginable happens and there is a need to find some good from it, I totally relate to that. You look gorgeous in the photo too! X

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 22, 2015 at 8:36 am (5 years ago)

      Oh yes Julia. While I would thump anyone who says ‘it happened for a reason’, there is a need to find good in bad things – because what’s the point in carrying on otherwise? That’s been my view, anyway. Thank you for such a kind comment, lovely xxx

  8. poutinginheels
    May 21, 2015 at 6:31 pm (5 years ago)

    You are on fire Leigh! Your confidence, determination, courage and kindness is a wonder to behold and I am so proud of you! You are most certainly a heroine, one of mine for sure, and I hope you continue to show this world what you are made of! Lovely post xxx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 22, 2015 at 8:34 am (5 years ago)

      Thank you so much lovely Katie, your comment made me feel a bit emotional! xxx

  9. Katie /Pouting In Heels
    May 21, 2015 at 6:29 pm (5 years ago)

    You are on fire Leigh! Your confidence, determination, courage and kindness is wonderful to behold and I am so incredibly proud of you. You are indeed a heroine, certainly one of mine, and I hope you continue fight the good fight and show this world what you are made of. Lovely post! xxx

  10. Mummy Writes
    May 21, 2015 at 4:56 pm (5 years ago)

    I love this post Leigh! Just look back over the year and see how you have changed, always with Hugo with you. 🌟 you look amazing too. The confidence shines through you, although I expect you don’t always feel it.
    I loved that quote you shared. It’s so empowering! Xx

    • Leigh Kendall
      May 22, 2015 at 8:34 am (5 years ago)

      Thank you so much! I feel strong, though not always confident – sometimes I’d much rather hide at home because it’s much easier. That quote is amazing isn’t it, so empowering. Love how things like that can pop up when you need them. Thanks for your lovely comment xxx


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *

CommentLuv badge